C-Drama Starter Pack: Best Fantasy Series To Watch If You're New to C-drama

UPDATED: May 16, 2021

After watching "The Long Ballad" of Dilraba Dilmurat and the irresistible Leo Wu Lei, I have updated this list and placed The Long Ballad first haha!

Our TV series watching experience has a massive makeover since the Taiwanese idol drama,  Meteor Garden, raised the bar of Asianovela popularity. In the Philippines, it has a massive impact the way we viewed drama series.

We suddenly realized, TV drama can be possibly wrapped up in just two months! So why on earth Philippine soap operas take eternity to finish? Like two years, five years, and worst, 10 years?

It does not make sense right? 😄 But today, we have tons of options to watch. From Korean to Thai to Taiwanese to C-drama. So many choices to binge-watch series that's absolutely Asian. 

Asianovela in a different level

However, as time goes by, personally, I do experience boredom watching redundant plots, unimpressive production design and wearisome melodramatic scenes, rehashing the same theme over and over again.

I want a series that are unique, highly entertaining, unpredictable, and enthralling something that astonishes me to the core, something that offers a different flavor of drama.

A series that lets me escape from the turmoil of the current environment. A drama that combines fascination, excitement, stunning production and unpredictable scenes. 

Dilraba Dilmurat and Vin Zhang (also known as Zhang Binbin) in The King's Woman

So I tried exploring the C-drama. In part because I like wuxia and xianxia genres, and when it comes to fighting scenes and fantasy-adventure, nothing does it better than the C-entertainment.

Indeed, it does.

Recently, Chinese television is a powerhouse when it comes to offering unique drama themes. C-drama fantasy series are huge hit today, raking billions of views on streaming platforms due to its enchanting plot and jaw-dropping production budget. 

These fantasy adventure series are more relieving and exciting to watch than the emotionally-induced drama that confronts reality in the present time. Fantasy adventure themes are great escape from all the ugly drama happening in the earth today. 

Vic Zhou as Emperor Zhao Heng in another fantasy drama, Palace of Devotion

So, if you are  grown tired watching contemporary drama, cheeky flicks, thriller and boring plot of most Asian series, and want to explore other genres, try wuxia and xianxia drama. It's way more entertaining than the contemporary series.

Laced with palace intrigues, tales of romance, breathtaking scenery of nature, betrayal and loathing sequences in an extravagant costume drama that could rival the opulence production of Game of Thrones and The Crown. With an ensemble cast of talented performers. C-drama series are truly exciting!

The C-drama phenomenon

Okay, Philippines has a complicated issue today with China. But let us not drag the geopolitical issue about the WPS here 😊 We're talking about high quality drama in big-budgeted projects. 

And when it comes to top-level TV production, nothing really delivers the best in Asia than the C-drama. Total entertainment package!

Most popular C-drama actresses

With the rising popularity and commercial success of wuxia and xianxia series from mainland China, there's no better way getting ourselves entertained when it comes to watching fantasy-adventure and historical series than the C-drama masterpieces. 

What's really exciting about these fantasy series is that it re-imagines the saga of historical figures taking an epic adventure to a fascinating world, in a stunning way. Its costume drama is really the best in the Asian region.

Princess Agents, another highly-recommended costume series

Before going deeper into the C-drama topic, it's necessary to understand the meaning behind these two genres because it's where most the of the story of C-drama is based:

  • Wuxia - a genre in Chinese fiction that tells the adventures of martial arts heroes and its goal to restore peace.
  • Xianxia - a genre in Chinese fiction that depicts stories influenced by Chinese myth, folklore and immortal characters.

There's always magical in watching wuxia and xianxia series. It could be due to the sleek and extravagant production design, multi-million budget, elaborate costume, stunning fighting techniques and irresistible actors and actresses.

Always enchanting and globally competitive. You could see how much time, effort and money they have spent to come up with such masterpieces. And this is why it is always worth spending hours binge-watching fantasy-adventure series. No boredom, only spellbinding moment.

If you are new to C-drama fantasy series, here are the most popular costume drama to binge-watch today. The stunning production and costume design and the stories of adventures will leave you in awe. 

7. The Story of Minglan
Genre: Historical, Wuxia
Episodes: 78
Release date: 2018
Notable casts: Zhao Li Ying, Feng Shao Feng, Zhu Yi Long (Available in Netflix).

It starred real life couple, Zhao Li Ying (lead cast of the Princess Agents) and Feng Shao Feng. The story sets during the Northern Song Dynasty and centers on Sheng Ming Lan (Zhao Li Ying), the 6th daughter of a high ranking official from his second concubine. Minglan is raised by her paternal grandmother after the death of her mother and loathed by her half-sisters and stepmother. 

She lives in an era where political struggle, loathing and vicious plot to kill rivals are prevalent. In order to survive, she learns to hide her true ability, thereby endured the bullying of her cruel sisters and stepmother. 

She initially falls in love with Qi Heng (Zhu Yi Long), a son of a Duke, however, the situation change when she meets Gu Tingye (Feng Shao Feng), the second son of a rich nobleman who is expected to inherit his family's wealth.

But Tingye falls victim to the fierce rivalry of power in the palace and he ends up losing everything. Ming Lan and Tingye join forces to fight their enemies. After defeating rival forces, Tingye becomes a powerful official and marries Ming Lan who assumes power in the palace.

Feng Shao Feng and Zhao Li Ying announced divorce in April 2021

This is one of the most popular C-drama historical series in 2018 reaching more than 400 million views on streaming platforms in just three days. This is also available to watch in Netflix.

It also garnered numerous recognitions from different award-giving bodies. It won the Most Outstanding TV series for 2018 at the 30th China TV Golden Eagle Award and an Audience Choice for Best Actress Award for Zhao Li Ying.

Trivia: Zhao Li Ying and Feng Shao Feng married in October 2018 and have a daughter born in 2019, however just last month, April 23, 2021, they announced their divorce. Ouch! So quick.

6. The Flame's Daughter
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure, Wuxia
Episodes: 52
Release date: 2018
Notable casts: Vic Zhou, Dilraba Dilmurat, Lai Yi, Vin Zhang

The Flame's Daughter promotional poster

This is one wuxia drama that I kept on re-watching in YouTube because I love the plot of timeless love. And because I love the on-screen team-up of Dilraba and Zaizai (Vic Zhou). So romantic 😍

What makes it different from other wuxia series is that The Flame's Daughter is humanizing the wuxia genre. The series did not focus on palace intrigues or hard-core martial arts adventure, but on the premise of an eternal romance.

Taiwanese actor, Vic Zhou (Hua Ze Lei in Meteor Garden) as Yin Xue

And yes, because I like the on-screen love team of Vic Zhou and Dilraba Dilmurat. The Flame's Daughter was shown in Philippine television as Fire of Eternal Love.

It tells the story of Lie Ruge (Dilraba Dilmurat), an heiress of the Flaming Hill sect who is actually the reincarnation of the woman deeply loved by Yin Xue (Vic Zhou) in another life.

Vic Zhou as Yin Xue, and Dilraba as Lie Ruge

After taking a sacrifice for 100 years in the mountain, waiting for his true love to reincarnate, Yin Xue takes a journey back to the human world to find her.

However, standing in their way is the fierce, An Ye Luo (Lai Yi), who possesses a dark magic to take revenge on the betrayal of the woman he solely loved, An Ye Ming, the mother of Lie Ruge.

The story of revenge, betrayal, power struggle between martial arts sects, and endless love, makes this series a great watch if you want to fall in love and eat popcorn.

5. The Legend of Fu Yao
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure, Xianxia
Episodes: 66
Release date: 2018
Notable casts: Yang Mi, Ethan Juan, Vengo Gao, Lai Yi

Yang Mi and Ethan Juan in The Legend of Fu Yao

The story takes place in the universe of the Five Kingdoms led by the Imperial city of Tianquan. Its emperor aimed to restore peace in the realms by restraining antagonists who planned to seize power.

And also to prevent a woman from unleashing its evil streak through the five-colored stones she possessed. The emperor assigned his son, the Crown Prince (Ethan Juan), to accomplish this mission.

Alas, the Crown Prince falls in love with the woman in question, Fu Yao. 

Taiwanese heartthrob, Ethan Juan, in Legend of Fu Yao

Fu Yao was formed from a cursed lotus flower and put in the Xuanyuan sect as a servant.  She is mocked for having no developed martial arts skill, but when she falls to a river, she suddenly learns an invincible fighting technique. 

She then sets for an adventure to the Five Kingdoms to gather artifacts to break the curse put on her. However, along the way, she encounters many antagonists and falls in love with Zhangsun Wuji (Ethan Juan) who now sits as the fake King of Taiyuan. 

Zhangsuan Wuji has a mission to fulfill, which includes suppressing Fu Yao from breaking the curse of her identity using the stones she collected because it will unleash evil power in the Five Kingdoms.

Legend of Fu Yao is an exciting xianxia series, though it's a bit dragging as episodes progressed because of too many subplots and characters, it is a great fantasy piece to watch.

I love Ethan Juan here. He is playful, romantic and exudes a jaw-dropping sex appeal 😍 I also love Lai Yi here portraying Dr. Zong Yue. He is awesome here, far different from the An Ye Luo I hated in The Flame's Daughter.

4. The Princess Wei Young
Genre: Historical, Wuxia
Episodes: 54
Release date: 2016
Notable casts: Tiffany Tang, Luo Jin, Vanness Wu (Available in NetFlix)

Luo Jin, Tiffany Tang and Vanness Wu in The Princess Wei Young

This is one C-drama series that lets you shed a bucket of tears even just in episode 1, or at least in my part. I love its opening episode! There's a stab of pain right away given to our heroine. And a lot of sufferings. Which is easy to understand why she sets her path to a cruel revenge.

This is a palace drama believed to be loosely based on Tuoba Jun's rise to power during the Wei Dynasty. However, the protagonist is not him but a princess from the rival kingdom who disguised as Wei Young. 

Tiffany Tang as Princess Wei Young

Princess Wei Young (played by Tiffany Tang) is actually about palace intrigues, betrayal, revenge. And love. It tells the story of the princess of the Northern Liang who seeks revenge for the murder of her family.

Feng Xin'er's father is framed for treason and murdered inside the palace witnessed by Xin'er herself. She escapes the assassination rampage with the help of her grandmother and body guards who were eventually killed. 

Luo Jin as Prince Touba Jun (in real life, he is the husband of Tiffany Tang)

In her journey, she passed out and saved by Wei Young (played by Li Yixiao), the illegitimate daughter of the Prime Minister of the Northern Wei, whose legal wife's family was the murderer of Xin'er's family.

Prime Minister's legal wife sends an assassin to kill Wei Young in the countryside to prevent her from coming to the palace. While dying, she asked Xin'er to assume her identity and take revenge on her death.

Vanness Wu as Prince Touba Yu

Xin'er vows to seek revenge for Wei Young's and her own family's murder. After an arduous journey, she successfully reaches the Prime Minister's palace. 

Later, she encounters the Princely brothers of Northern Wei, Touba Jun (Luo Jin, Tiffany Tang's real-life husband) and Touba Yu (Vanness Wu), both wanted to win her heart for opposing motives. She falls in love with Touba Jun. Touba Jun and Touba Yu are rivals to become an emperor.

This is a critically-acclaimed wuxia drama that earned multiple awards for its technical and acting merits and tight plot. Tiffany Wang and Luo Jin (real life couple) won Best Actress and Best Actor trophies while Vanness Wu won the Most Charismatic Actor on the Screen award at the 88th China TV Drama Awards.

Trivia: Luo Jin and Tiffany Tang are real-life couple, they got married in October 2016, two months before Princess Wei Young was shown in TV. Tang is a close-friend of Yang Mi and served as Yang Mi's bridesmaid in her wedding to Hawick Lau in 2014.

3. The Untamed
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure, Xianxia
Episodes: 50
Release date: 2019
Notable casts: Wang Yibo, Xiao Zhan

The Untamed

The Untamed is one of the most popular costume drama, it has massive followers that it was even made available for streaming in NetFlix. It stars two of China's most popular idols, Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhahn who shot to stardom after the releas of this series in 2019.

It is based on the novel "Grand Master of Demonic Cultivation" and it narrates the bromance story between Wei Wu Xian (Xiao Zhan) and Lan Wang Ji (Wang Yibo). 

The book was heavily criticized for insinuating same-sex relationship which is not yet comfortably accepted in China. So the series version was toned down to remove the "LGBT" insinuation and just portrayed a "bromance" nature of relationship.

The Untamed retells the story of two talented disciples of respectable clans, Wei Wu Xian and Lan Wang Ji, who are willing to protect each other even up to the end of the world.

They meet during the cultivation training and accidentally discover a secret kept for many years. Taking on the legacy of their ancestors, they decide to fight the demons that threaten to destroy the world. However, in the course of this epic adventure of gallantry, Wu Xian dies.

Sixteen years later, Wu Xian is brought back to live through a self-sacrificing ritual. He conceals himself behind a mask and assumes the identity of his summoner.

He reunites soon with his best friend, Lan Wang Ji, and start working together to solve the series of mysteries happening in their sects. At the course of their journey to restore harmony and peace, they uncover the truth behind the events of the past.

2. The Long Ballad
Genre: Historical adventure, Wuxia
Episodes: 49
Release date: 2021
Notable casts: Dilraba Dilmurat, Leo Wu Lei, Zhao Lusi

Leo Wu Lei and Dilraba Dilmurat in The Long Ballad

I've just watched this series and I feel awe with its beautiful story. A skilled warrior falling hardly in love with a female warrior who is out for revenge for her slain family. 

This is a series that has strong female lead, but I love how it presented as a war drama that has so much "heart" in it. I mean a great warrior who falls in love who is willing to do everything to make his beloved safe.

Leo Wu plays Prince Ashile Sun in The Long Ballad

The story is centers on the life of a royal princess, Li Changge, herself a skilled martial artist who is willing to do sacrifices to take revenge on her slain family.

The plot sets during the Tang dynasty when the kingdom was in chaos due to court intrigues and political rivalry of clans complicated by the desire for supremacy of a tribal chieftain.

Dilraba Dilmurat as Princess Li Changge

It started when a crown prince and his wife were assassinated in the palace. The political center of Chang'an is shaken on the incident as the successful palace coup takes over the throne. The brother of the crown prince sits on the throne. 

Li Changge escapes and starts her adventure to different towns in the kingdom to seek help from her father's trusted military leaders. She raises a powerful army leads a series of victory, however, she suffers betrayal along the way.

She meets Ashile Sun, a prince of the Ashile tribe that is in odd with the emperor. He has saved her life a couple of times before uncovering her true identity. When the army she leads suffer a massive defeat, Ashile Sun takes her to his military division and makes her his military strategist.

They have two different goals to pursue wars, however, both want to end the loathing and killing in the realm. At the course of the journey of the conflict, they fall in love with each other.

1. Eternal Love: Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure, Xianxia
Episodes: 58
Release date: 2017
Notable casts: Yang Mi, Mark Chao, Dilraba Dilmurat, Vengo Gao, Vin Zhang

Eternal Love: Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms

For those who are new to historical Chinese drama, this series might sound a bit complicated. The story is some sort of a time machine to three different lifetime of the principal characters.

As with most C-drama historical and fantasy genres, this is also based on the novel: Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, marketed worldwide as To The Sky Kingdom.

This series is an explosive hit in China, in Asia and around the world reaching more than 50 billion views in video streaming platforms, making it the most watched Chinese historical drama.

Watching this C-drama is actually a long journey haha! As it unfolds in three different lifetime of the characters. But per episode is an exciting experience, so you better give this a try.

Yang Mi and Mark Chao in Eternal Love

Yang Mi plays three characters here: Bai Qian as a fox fairy, Si Yin as a disguised male disciple of Kunlun mountain, and as the mortal Su Su.

Taiwanese actor, Mark Chao (Vic Zhou's co-star in Black and White), plays four characters: Mo Yuan, the God of War of the Kunlun mountain, Ye Hua, the Crown Prince of the Nine Heavens, Jin Lian, the golden lotus flower, and Zhao Ge, mortal reincarnation of Ye Hua.

The series opens in the heavenly realms with Bai Qian (Yang Mi), a mischievous fox fairy being sent to Kunlun mountain to become the disciple of Mo Yuan (Mark Chao).

Bai Qian assumes the identity of Si Yin, a male identity because no women can enter the Kunlun mountain to become a disciple. However, Mo Yuan knows Si Yin is a woman.

Bai Qian's mischief leads her and the ninth disciple (played by Zhang He who also played Li Jinghong in The Flame's Daughter) who assigned to guard her, being kidnapped by the emperor of the Ghost Tribe, the enemy of the Kunlun mountain.

Dilraba Dilmurat as Bai Feng Jiu

While at the Ghost Tribe, Si Yin catches the attention of Prince Li Jing (played by Vin Zhang, who also played Zhang Feng in The Flame's Daughter), who is also aware she is a female.

The kidnapping incident triggered a war between the Ghost tribe and Nine Heavens. The emperor is eventually killed by Mo Yuan and sealed the soul in the Dong Huang bell, but Mo Yuan paid an ultimate sacrifice. 

By sealing the Ghost Tribe emperor's soul for a thousand years, Mo Yuan's own soul shattered into pieces. This began the reincarnation of the characters to other different lives.

In an attempt to re-seal the soul of the Ghost tribe, Bai Qian falls off the heavenly realms and lost her memory and power and becomes the mortal Su Su where she met and fell in love with Mo Yuan/Ye Hua's mortal reincarnation.

Yang Mi as Bai Qian in Eternal Love

Interestingly, Dilraba Dilmurat played a supporting role in this series as Bai Feng Jiu, niece of Bai Qian. She portrays a stubborn red fox princess who often commits mischief due to her curiosity. 

Her curiosity on many things leads her to almost being killed by a tiger in the forest and she is being saved by Dong Hua (Vengo Gao), the emperor of the Nine Heavens, who does not know how to fall in love.

They too would reincarnate into other lifetimes and fall in love when they became mortals.

This series is quite dragging with so many subplots, but the costume design, epic fighting scenes, extravagant production design, makeup and elaborate sequences will entice you to watch the entire series.

It has a sequel, Eternal Love of Dream: The Pillow Book, which focuses on the story of Bai Feng Jiu and Dong Hua.

Other highly recommended C-drama historical series to watch:

  • Nirvana in Fire (Hu Ge, Liu Tao, Wang Kai)
  • The King's Woman (Dilraba Dilmurat and Vin Zhang)
  • Princess Agents (Zhao Liying, Lin Gengxin)
  • Eternal Love of Dream (Dilraba Dilmurat, Vengo Gao)
  • Ashes of Love (Yang Zi and Deng Lun)
  • Legend of Fei (Zhao Liying, Wang Yibo)

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